KINGSTON – Tension remains high in the Opposition People’s National Party South Western constituency following a shooting incident which left PNP councillor for the Greenwich Town division, Karl Blake, in hospital nursing gunshot wounds and his secretary Maxine Simpson dead.
Blake, who is said to be the nephew of Member of Parliament Portia Simpson Miller, received gunshots to his upper body while Simpson, 52, was reportedly shot in the head. The 56-year-old councillor was said to be stable in hospital last night.
The constabulary’s Corporate Communications Unit (CCU) reported that about 8:30 pm Sunday, the two were sitting outside the Caribbean Palm Community Centre when armed men entered the premises and opened fire hitting them.
Detectives assigned to the Hunts Bay Police Station are probing the incident.
The shooting occurred while senior officers of the party were in Manchester hosting its “Back to Basic Listening Tour”.
Information reaching the Jamaica Observer is that Blake was among those shortlisted to replace former Opposition Leader Simpson Miller, who is inching towards political retirement.
But some in the party have denied this, insisting that the rumour mills were switched on to “demonise” others in the race for the party’s safest seat.
Except for party president Dr Peter Phillips and Vice-President Angela Brown Burke, other heavyweights in the party refrained from commenting publicly.
Phillips expressed condolences to the family of Simpson, saying “words alone cannot convey the depth of my sadness”. At the same time, he wished Blake a “speedy recovery”.
Burke, who Simpson spoke highly of on her Facebook page, said: “Just a few hours ago we were enjoying PNP Conference in Rae Town. And now you are dead. It’s hard. No words. Your family.”
She added: “Praying for the speedy recovery of my colleague Councillor Karl [Blake] . . . 135 persons murdered in May. Highest number in one month in the last two years.”
Yesterday, the PNP, in a statement, said that it was saddened by the incident which resulted in injury and loss of life.
“The People’s National Party is saddened by the shooting incident at Caribbean Palms in the Constituency of South West St Andrew, which resulted in the death of Comrade Maxine Simpson, and the injury of Councillor Karl Blake of the Greenwich Town Division.
“The PNP family wishes to express its condolences to the family, relative and friends of Comrade Maxine Simpson; and wish for Councillor Karl Blake a speedy and full recovery,” the statement read.
The party said an assault on both Blake and Simpson, a member of the party’s women’s movement, is a “reprehensible” act of violence, and urged the police to act swiftly to apprehend the killers.
“We take note of the blatant murder of so many Jamaicans, especially our women and call upon all Jamaicans to cooperate with the police in their various investigations as we all unite to fight against this scourge,” the statement added.
Local Government and Community Development Minister Desmond McKenzie, expressed shocked at the killing of Simpson and the wounding of Blake.
“An attack on anyone is of grave concern to me, but I am particularly disturbed about an incident of this nature, where a sitting councillor and his assistant are shot in the divisional office, which is the place of service to the people of Greenwich Town.
“As minister of local government, and as a former councillor in what is now the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), I can truly say I understand the deep sense of anguish that the friends and families of both victims are feeling right now. As a member of Parliament, I also feel the emotion that I am sure the Most Honourable Portia Simpson Miller is experiencing as MP for South Western St Andrew.”
“I trust that the police will quickly determine why this brazen attack occurred, and apprehend the responsible person or persons. I also want to join with the mayor of Kingston and the many councillors in the KSAMC who have expressed support for Councillor Blake, and condolences to the family and friends of Simpson.”
No motive has been established for the shooting.